In our previous article, we talked about how a caliph was chosen, a brief history about the Perfect Caliphs, and how the succession ends. Now, let us take a look at the qualifications of the caliph.


During the death of Prophet Mohammad, Muslims were divided on choosing Abu Bakr and Sa’d ibn ‘Ubadah to be the next caliph. Their problem is the qualification of the next successor of Prophet Muhammad because he did not mention or appoint his successor until his death. This gave a way for Muslims to look at the qualifications of Abu Bakr and ibn ‘Ubadah. They considered Abu Bakr because of his closeness to Prophet Muhammad when he was alive. Abu Bakr was Prophet Muhammad’s close companion, adviser, father-in-law, and they belong to the tribe of Quraysh of Mecca Muslims. On the other hand, the consideration of ibn ‘Ubadah of being a caliph was based on his capability, knowledge in Islam, and belonging to the tribe of Khazraj of Medina Muslims; although he is not related to Prophet Muhammad aside of being one of his companions like Abu Bakr. This gave the way for ibn ‘Ubadah’s view and his Muslim supporters to consider the principle that any Muslims can be a caliph given that he has necessary qualifications and knows Islamic principle. This is in contrast to Abu Bakr’s supporters and view that being a caliph must be from the clan of Quraysh. These two principles of qualifications on selecting a caliph pave a way to have a division of Muslims into Sunni and Shiite branches.


On the other hand, there is a clear definition of qualifications of caliph according to H.A.R. Gibb and Harold Bowen’s book of Islamic Society and the West. According to the book, “It was held that the caliph must be a male, free, and of age and normal physical capacities, possessed of a certain degree of piety and of legal knowledge and perception, capable of directing the public administration and of leadership in war. Moreover, though he might delegate the performance of certain of his functions to qualified persons, he could not divest himself of his ultimate responsibility for all the actions of the government.”